General manager Paul Holmgren knows that he needs to improve his defense this summer, while also keeping a number of veterans that currently comprise it in place.
Most solid defensive schemes begin with a consistent goaltender in net. Acquiring the rights to and then signing former Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov last June was supposed to answer the Flyers past crease questions.
Bryzgalov's inconsistent 2011-12 season didn't provide the type of initial solution that the organization had hoped for. The veteran, who has eight years remaining on his contract, played erratically and often interacted with the media in ways that created public relations stirs.
Bryzgalov is set to turn 32 later this month. I have mentioned his age because he is currently in what should be the prime of his career.
Based upon past regular season performances and his phenomenal March effort this season, it's quite obvious that he has the potential to be great. But, does 'Bryz' have the ability to play at a consistently high level through any future Flyers playoff drives?
Having three solid defensive pairings work with him during the upcoming regular season, could prepare Bryzgalov to play his best postseason hockey.
Not a thin blue line
The Flyers hardly have a bad defensive. I would classify their veteran blue line contingent as average.
Chris Pronger would still be the team's best defenseman, but concussion issues continue to make any possible return to the ice an ongoing question. The Flyers can't realistically count on him ever returning and they will continue to prepare for the future as if he won't be a part of it. On a purely human level, everyone obviously hopes that 'Prongs' regains his full health so that he can live a normal life with his family.
If he is able to fully rebound from injury issues and recent surgery, veteran Kimmo Timonen (who is 37-years-old) remains one of the better overall defensemen in the game.
Matt Carle (set to turn 28 in September) is a good defenseman, but also is set to become an unrestricted free agent and may not return to Philadelphia.
Nicklas Grossmann (27) was a terrific in-season addition who came over from the Dallas Stars. His punishing style and highly effective play earned him a well-received contract extension with the Flyers. He will be a key part of the team's defensive effort moving forward.
Braydon Coburn (27) has had an uneven series of seasons during his Flyer years, but had a decent year this season and should be a positive member of the blue line staff in the future.
Andrej Meszaros, like Coburn, has also played a streaky game. He is set to turn 27 in October and should deliver on the upside moving forward.
Except for Timonen, the Flyers have three veteran defensemen (Grossmann, Coburn and Meszaros) who are currently under contract and are in their late twenties. That's a good base for Philadelphia to have in place, unless trades are made to further upgrade the back line.
I haven't even touched upon the potential of the Flyers rookie defenders Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson, or other up-and-coming blue line men, but will address that component of this team in the near future.
As to whether Holmgren's veteran defensemen will help put the Flyers into as strong of a position as the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils dually were this June is a deeper topic to be considered as well.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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